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Three-time All-American Jarod Trice ready to trade in the singlet in Bellator debut

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In the recent group of standout collegiate wrestlers who are migrating to Bellator, one of the more under-publicized names was Jarod Trice, the three time NCAA All-America from Central Michigan University. Trice, who signed with Bellator in early May, makes his mixed martial arts debut during the prelim portion of Bellator 167.

His opponent will be Tommie Britton, a fellow newcomer to MMA. Like Ed Ruth and Tyrell Fortune, both of whom debuted at Bellator 163 in early November, Trice is expected to make a smooth transition to the cage in Thackerville, Oklahoma. And just like Ruth and Tyrell, Trice doesn’t really know all that much about his opponent, who was a fairly last minute-replacement after Brandon Lee pulled out.

He just knows that Britton "throws with a lot of power from the hip." A wrestler like Trice comes into the game with supreme confidence that he’ll make it whatever kind of fight he wants.

"It wasn’t so much those guys [Ruth and Tyrell] that got me into it, but it was more looking at guys like Daniel Cormier, Darrion Caldwell, Bubba Jenkins and those guys," he says. "The Mo Lawal’s. It was more watching what those guys have done over the years since 2011, 2012. That was my influence coming in.

"I had the opportunity to go either route, to WWE or MMA. And I just basically stuck with the amateur wrestling for a while, but I knew I wanted to fight four years ago, man. Things didn’t work out for me this year, in April, so I decided to go to MMA."

In April Trice was still harboring hopes of fulfilling a dream in the amateur ranks at the Olympic trials. Once it was clear to him that he’d gone as far as he could in wrestling, he took the next step towards the cage. With Muhammad Lawal as a mentor, and former MMA fighter/wrestler Matt Lindland — whom Trice got to know well at the Olympic Training Center over the course of a year — dishing advice, Trice made the choice to give it a go.

"[Lindland] just said, MMA is a different ball game," he says. "It’s something you’re going to have to commit yourself to 100 percent. You can’t try and wrestle and do MMA at the same time. It’s going to be one or the other, because if you want to be the best in the world you’ve got to make one your main focus. I soaked that it and gave it a little bit of thought. Then in April, when things didn’t go my way at the Olympic trials, I made the commitment that I wanted to fight."

The other option that presented itself to Trice a couple of years ago was a chance to segue into professional wrestling. The WWE had enough interest in the athletic big man that they rolled out a pitch to get him in the squared circle, though Trice says he’s happy that he stayed the course on the amateur circuit.

"[The WWE] flew me down to Florida to come try it out," he says. "I pretty much kind of turned them down, because I was almost two years out from the trials man. And I was like why give up something I’ve been training my whole life for to just jump ship and go this route. I’m not going to lie to you, it was a pretty nice set-up what they offered me right away. I thought about it later, and I’m glad I did something that I love to do, and I got to compete for a few more years in wrestling for Team USA.

"Wrestling took me further than I would have ever imagined man. Coming from the inner city of Detroit, and a lot of my friends have never been outside of Detroit. And I was fortunate enough to travel to over 30 countries since 2005."

Trice — who competed as a heavyweight his entire career until April 2015, when he had the mental toughness to cut nearly 60 pounds to compete for the University Nationals Greco-Roman title (98 kg/216 pounds) — says he’s been working all aspects of MMA, but that he’s very confident in his hands.

"I like the power," he says. "But more so the speed of my punches, and that the way I’m sitting down on punches".

Since cutting down for the Nationals, Trice has maintained his weight and  will enter his MMA career as a light heavyweight. On Saturday night, he says he’s ready to showcase his toughness — though that sense of toughness precedes the mats. 

It goes back to his childhood.
"Being truthful, my mental toughness didn’t come all the way from wrestling, man, it came from where I grew up at," he says. "I grew up in Highland Park Michigan, which is smack in the middle of Detroit. I got my mental toughness from the area that I grew up in. Wrestling it just promoted me into growing up as a man."